Awesome Gem Favored In New Orleans Handicap
West Point Thoroughbreds' first millionaire, Awesome Gem is the morning line favorite in the $300,000 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Fair Grounds. The salty veteran is making is second start back since the Breeders' Cup Classic in November. He was beaten four lengths earlier this month in the Kilroe Mile on the lawn at Santa Anita in his return race.
West Point Thoroughbreds is looking to capture the New Orleans Handicap for the second year in a row. In 2009, Macho Again carried the black and gold to victory over a sloppy racetrack.
This race is Awesome Gem's first try over the Fair Grounds strip. However, in 2009 he captured the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), over a conventional dirt surface. Also in 2009, the chestnut son of Awesome Again was second in both the Eddie Read Handicap (gr. I) and Longacres Mile (gr. III), and third in the Berkley Handicap (gr. III).
His 2008 took West Point Thoroughbreds to the highest levels of racing, as he competed in the the Breeders Cup Mile and was invited to run in the Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Awesome Gem has hit the board in twelve-graded stakes races, including four Grade I's, and won the San Fernando Stakes (G2) in 2007. He also finished second in both the Pacific Classic (G1) and the Goodwood (G1) in 2007. He culminated that year with a third place finish behind Curlin in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1). His career earnings currently stand at just shy of $1.7 million.
Trainer Craig Dollase says, "He did not run badly at all in his last start. He likely needed the race. David (Flores) worked him the other day and said that he felt just as he did before his huge effort in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. I think he is going to run big."
Terry Finley, President of West Point Thoroughbreds says, "We have been targeting this race for quite some time. West Point is excited to have the favorite this year after an impressive win with Macho Again in 2009. Macho Again had a very productive campaign after this race in 2009, and we are optimistic the same will go for Awesome Gem."
The New Orleans Handicap is the 8th race tomorrow with post of 3:39 CST/4:39 EST. Awesome Gem drew post 3 of 10 in the 1 1/8 miles contest. Regular pilot David Flores made the trip to California to ride.
Click here to read a Bloodhorse article about Awesome Gem